Trade or Profession

© 2008 Brooke Allen
Originally published in International Family Magazine

I have just returned from the annual meeting of the Chicago Quantitative Alliance ( where one speaker made a convincing case that the brokerage and banking systems are bankrupt and another made the case that so is the Federal Government.

The world is going to hell, and we don’t even have a hand basket.[1]

At the lunch break I asked the fellow sitting next to me what advice he had for my children in college.

He said, “Drop out of college and learn a trade; they can always go to college later.”

That reminded me of a joke. A lawyer has a leaky faucet. He calls the plumber who fixes the faucet and presents a bill for $100.25.

The lawyer is livid, “How do you justify such an expense?”

“Twenty-five cents for the washer and $100 an hour for my time – one hour minimum.”

The lawyer says, “I’m a lawyer and even I don’t get $100 an hour.”

The plumber says, “That’s funny – when I was a lawyer, I didn’t get $100 an hour either.”

The joke reminded me of the advice my father passed on from his dad, “Develop both a trade and a profession.” Even as he rose through the ranks of management at United Press International, granddad maintained his skill as one of the world’s top telegraphers.

In 1990 we moved to Japan to advance my career as a securities trader, but in 1993 I was laid off and returned to the United States to find the nation in a recession. There was a dearth jobs that offered career prospects. Luckily, throughout my rise in management, I’d kept up my skills as a Pretty Good Programmer and quickly found that there was plenty of work for those who were willing to trade an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.


Don’t trade a chance at a trade for a profession – get both.

[1] For those of you who have not heard the expression, “Going to hell in a hand basket,” now you have.

Author: Brooke Allen

Founder – Viral Virtue, Inc.

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